Canon vs Nikon: which DSLR should you buy?

The best from the current Nikon and Canon DSLRs

Canon EOS 700D: £599 (with kit lens) / AU$849 / US$749
Canon EOS 70D: £858 (with kit lens) / US$1199 / AU$1,790
Canon EOS 7D - £800 (body only) / US$1,440 / AU$1,250
Nikon D5300 - £599 / US$1100 / AU$930
Nikon D7100 - £839 / US$1,197 / AU$1549
Nikon D300S - £924 / US$1,700 / AU$1,850

The intermediate DSLR market is a very interesting one right now, with prices at a point where you can get some seriously good pieces of kit for a not-so-hefty investment.

Also, the mid-range is where some key selling points of cameras in the higher range tend to trickle down.

Canon 700D

The 700D was a very quick replacement for the 650D and has a comprehensive set of features in a smaller and more lightweight body than, say, the Canon EOS 7D. The 700D has an 18 million-pixel APS-C sized sensor and a 14-point Digic 5 processor. It also has a hybrid autofocus system for use in live view or video mode, as well as a nine-point, all-cross type phase detection system for when you're using the viewfinder.

Hybrid autofocus

The hybrid autofocusing system was first seen in the Canon EOS M, the company's compact system camera, and makes for quicker autofocusing – DSLRs generally struggle with fast speeds when shooting in live view.

Canon first introduced a touchscreen for its DSLRs on the 650D, something that remains on the 700D. It's particularly useful when shooting in Live View or Video to set the AF point, but it's also useful for making changes to settings, and also when playing back images (where swiping and using pinch-to-zoom is helpful). It's also articulating (hinged), which makes it handy for shooting from awkward angles.

As it stands, Nikon has yet to introduce an SLR with a touchscreen, so if you're a particular fan of this kind of technology, those in the Canon stable should be more appealing.

Canon 70D

If you have a bit more cash to spare, then the Canon 70D is an excellent choice for advanced enthusiasts. It features a 20.2 million-pixel CMOS sensor, coupled with the latest Digic 5 processor.

Along with having a higher pixel count than Canon's other recent APS-C format sensors, the 70D's sensor is a Dual Pixel CMOS device, which enables faster focusing during Live VIew and video mode. Unlike the 700D, the 70D has 19 AF points, all of which are cross-type.

The 700D can shoot at up to 7fps at full resolution for up to 65 JPEGs or 16 raw files, which, if you're looking to shoot sport or other fast moving subjects, is very useful, especially when using the 60D's continuous focusing capability.

Hinged touchscreen

Like the 700D, the 70D also has an articulating touchscreen. There are also plenty of physical buttons and dials to suit traditionalists. Another particularly enticing feature of the 70D is its built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, something the Nikon D5300 also has, but not the 70D's more direct competitor, the D7100.

Sitting over in the Nikon camp is the D5300. If you're after a high resolution, the 24.2 million-pixel sensor, which doesn't feature an optical low pass filter, could be more appealing than the 700D's 18-million pixel device.

Nikon D5300

A replacement for the D5200, the D5300 features many of the same specifications as its predecessor, but one of the most significant changes is the inclusion of the latest Expeed 4 processing engine.

The D5300 features an effects mode, as do the Canon 700D and 70D. However, these can be shot when using the viewfinder, unlike the slightly odd way in which the Canons operate (filters can only be shot when using Live View).

In terms of the display, the D5300's isn't touch-sensitive like the 700D, but it is slightly larger at 3.2 inches. It's also articulating, again useful for shooting from awkward angles, or when shooting video.

Moving up the range, there's the D7100. It has a 24.1-million pixel sensor, and as is starting to become increasingly common, it has had the anti-aliasing filter removed for increased detail resolution. It features the Expeed 3 processing engine – as found in the Nikon D4 and Nikon D800 – which allows it to push its sensitivity shooting options up to ISO 25,600.

D7100

If you're a sports photographer, the D7100 will appeal over the D5300 as its framerate is 6fps (compared with the D5300's 5fps). It doesn't beat the 70D though. Another feature which may appeal to sports and wildlife shooters is the 1.3x crop mode, which allows you to get closer to the subject without having to crop the image in post-capture. It also has the added benefit of boosting the frame rate up to 7fps.

In terms of autofocus, the D7100 easily trumps the 70D as it features a 51-point Multi-Cam 3500DX AF module, which has 15 cross-type AF points around the centre of the frame.

Unlike the 70D, the D7100 has a fixed screen, making it far less useful for shooting from awkward angles, or when creating videos.

Higher up

Moving away from the mid-range and towards the top end of the scale, you can now pick up some great bargains in the form of older cameras. Once upon a time both the Canon EOS 7D and Nikon D300S would have been found in the £1,000 and above category, but you can now pick up both cameras for less than that (body only).

Canon 7D

Although these cameras are older models, they're still in the current line-up offered by both manufacturers. And if you're a sports or wildlife photographer they offer an advantage over full-frame cameras, since the smaller, APS-C sized sensors mean you get extra reach from your lenses.

One of the 7D's key selling points is its 8fps continuous shooting rate, which is joined by an 18 million-pixel sensor, 19-point autofocus system and a magnesium alloy body complete with environmental weather seals.

Meanwhile, the D300S is even older, and offers just 12.3 million pixels, which by current standards seems rather low. It's also only capable of shooting at 720p, but if you're not bothered about shooting video, that may not be important to you.

Nikon D300S

What it is good for is its autofocus system, which outclasses the 7D with its 51-point system. The camera is also capable of shooting at up to 7fps, which can be boosted to 8fps if you add the MB-D10 battery grip.

If you're often shooting low light scenarios, it's the Canon that wins out here, with a range of ISO 100 – 6400 (ISO 12800 expanded) compared with the D300S' ISO 200 – 3200 (ISO 100 – 6400 expanded) capability. At those higher sensitivities, the Canon results in the best noise-free images.

That said, the D300S is a little more intuitive to use, and it also offers a range of customisation options for using the camera exactly how you want to.

Read our full Nikon D5300 Review

Read our full Nikon D7100 Review

Read our full Nikon D300S Review

Read our full Canon 700D Review

Read our full Canon 70D Review

Read our full Canon 7D Review